What is it? A neon-dunked action-adventure game set in Tokyo, Japan with ghost and ghouls galore
Release date March 25
Expect to pay $60/£50
Developer Tango Gameworks
Reviewed on Ryzen 5 3600X, 32GB RAM, RTX 2070
Link Official site (opens in new tab)
You may not have realised it, but Ghostwire: Tokyo, developed by Tango Gameworks, is an action-adventure game. Going back and looking at the original teaser for Ghostwire may have led you to believe that the story was going to be closer to Silent Hill or Tango's The Evil Within series and, if that's the game you want, Ghostwire isn't for you. But if you want a neon Japanese adventure game where you get cool spirit powers and pet a bunch of dogs, walk right this way.
The main draw of Ghostwire: Tokyo is its combat. In 2022 we've seen a lot of very precise and punishing combat-driven games. The Elden Rings and Sifus of the world love to hurt you, and make you learn the rules of play in brutal ways. Ghostwire: Tokyo just wants to give you cool magic hands which shoot lights at a mess of bad guys, then watch them melt.
The combat is a lot of fun, and that's just as well because you'll do a lot of it. It's not overly complex or intricate. It's a mess of neon pulses in various hues, a few talismans which act as a sort of grenade and your spirit bow—my favourite of protagonist Akito's utilities. Eventually the game gives you enough archery buffs that you can take out most enemies with a clean headshot before they've even spotted you—whether that be from roof tops or down an adjacent alleyway.
Not every encounter's so clean. Crouched behind an abandoned car I draw my bow, looking to take out some of the floating enemies above my next objective. After running out of arrows I sneak behind a ghost in a suit, quickly executing a purge and ripping out its core, drawing the attention of three other wandering ghouls who attack. I swap to my wind powers, charging bursts to hit them, but they're getting closer and I'm ducking and diving to avoid their own magic offensive. I swap to fire and charge a blistering, blazing orb which I volley into the group. My explosion damages them all just enough to expose their cores and I use my ethereal weaving to latch onto their cores, rending them clean of their undead inhabitants. Pretty flippin' cool.
The city of Ghostwire: Tokyo is a marvel. It's a detailed and intricate environment which, scattered with the clothes, bags, and phones of its inhabitants, feels truly abandoned. Though its details can get hazy as you sprint down the streets, Tango Gameworks does an incredible job making the city feel fresh and distinct across its various areas. Akito can squeeze down alleyways and vault any fence. And when the entire city is being patrolled by ghosts, hiding from them in nooks and crannies makes its layout feel pretty realistic.
There is a lot that doesn't work about Ghostwire, sadly. The story is, eh, fine I guess. You play Akito, a man on a mission to save his little sister. Akito is in a car accident just before Tokyo is turned to spirits and KK, the ghost of a recently deceased spirit hunter, possesses Akito's weak body. They need each other because KK needs a body and Akito would be dead without KK's powers. They don't really like each other though. Their relationship is made up of grumbling complaints about being stuck with each other. Because they're men of action, of course they don't talk about their feelings or their histories. Akito's relationship with his sister Mari is told entirely through flashbacks in which he is still ashamed and avoiding his feelings. KK just doesn't trust Akito so doesn't want to chat about his family either. It's just two moody dudes hanging out.
The best writing is of the bad guy Hannya, and Akito and KK's two allies Ed and Rinko. The latter especially is explored in more detail, because the protagonists because go back and forth about trusting her—exploring why KK's history with her is so complex. Akito and KK can't talk about themselves, but they're happy to talk about other people. Baddie Hannya provides the only 'oh shit' moment in the game, for my money, his cruelty and unhinged approach to life and death is genuinely unnerving, a contrast to the rest of the game's atmosphere.
Ghostwire: Tokyo is creepy but that's as far as it goes. It's not horror—it's action. Though Tango Gameworks is primarily known for The Evil Within, there isn't much to fear about Ghostwire: Tokyo, although it's filled with ghosts. I am a baby when it comes to horror. I've always had to watch any horror film from between my fingers or behind a pillow. Watching or playing anything with a horror element sets my brain ablaze with possibilities in how many different nefarious ways it could rattle me to my core. And I jumped maybe twice during Ghostwire, including a time I accidentally scared myself.
Weird things happen, and you may be unnerved by going into the home of a malicious spectre. If you're looking for a good scare, you're not going to get it here—even if I did say "what the fuck is that" maybe three or four times when seeing a new enemy or one of the few bosses the game contains.
There was potential to be scary though. There is one moment where I was genuinely fearing for Akito as he was suddenly left at the bottom of an underground mine without his spirit powers. You realise as you turn to look behind you that the way you came is now littered with monsters and, for just a moment, you hold your breath as you feel suddenly alone and intimidated by the task at hand. Hannya really could win. I can't do this.
But hey, give the game ten minutes and you can go get your powers back from a temple by running past a bunch of these spirits or using your handy dandy sneaking abilities. From then on losing your abilities is a normal part of some fights and kind of no biggie. That fear you felt the first time just vanishes. And that's kind of the crux of the milquetoast horror of Ghostwire: Tokyo. Lots of potential but it just doesn't follow up.
What's unfortunate about the scope of the project is that one trailer for the game shows you almost everything you'll see. It's like those action movie trailers that ruin many of the set pieces before you've even got the chance to enjoy them in the cinema. The game has a few cool bosses and a couple of recurring quest situations that feel fresh, but otherwise it's very obvious about what you get.
It's worth mentioning that my playthrough of Ghostwire lasted about 10 and a half hours. That's with a smattering of side missions completed as well, but mostly just sprinting through the latter half of the game in an effort to finish it. With all the side missions complete it's probably closer to 20 hours. And with collectables? Oof, goodness knows. In an age when games are always getting longer and more expansive, it was nice to be able to get through this in a couple of days.
I missed a lot of side missions, but honestly, they're not hugely memorable. When you're given these quests, they're from a celestial mass of blue essence in the vague shape of a human. You can't see that they're sad or annoyed or really… anything at all. You could get some cool little stories from these adventures but they're mostly along the lines of "I died and I have a regret" or "this part of the city had something wrong with it, go fight some enemies and cleanse it of bad energy".
I also experienced occasional performance issues here and there. Heavy stuttering, in particular, would happen when a fight was getting particularly messy. Additionally when I played the game on a close to brand-new laptop there were some strange latency issues between the trackpad and the game, and even heavier stuttering and asset loading issues. On my main PC, however, neither of these problems applied.
Ghostwire: Tokyo is the best PlayStation 3 game I've played in years. It's like a good Japanese interpretation of the Infamous games. It's like you've got a ghost-based Watch Dogs or neon injected Bioshock. Ghostwire has the spirit of these older action games in bucketfuls and, though it's by no means perfect, it's like a glass of Coke after a long walk in the sun. Water might be better for you, but you want to indulge in something sugary and sweet despite the million health warnings. Though there are better games than Ghostwire in terms of theme, horror and graphics, this is just uncomplicated fun.